Monday, November 2, 2009

bread that really schmecks!

Deb lent me Food that Really Schmecks by Edna Staebler last February. She promised that not only did it have the best bread recipe (in her own words "no fail each and every time") but it would read like a novel; or I'd feel like I was chatting with Edna while enjoying one of the delightful goodies she writes about.

Deb isn't a liar. She was right; the bread recipe hasn't failed me. The book reads like I'm visiting my grandmother and we're sharing a pot of tea and devouring cookies, pies, cakes or warm loaves of bread (or all of the above).

Why schmecks? Well, Edna compiled recipes from the Kitchener/Waterloo (Ontario) Mennonite community. Everything that's in it is tried, tested and no fail; after all, (as I learnt reading this) Mennonites love their food and don't have time to waste. I have re-read it several times; bookmarking pages along the way.

I like to think that this blog is really an Edna entry - since it's thanks to her book that I am able to pass it along :0) (thank you Deb for introducing me to her and her recipes)

This batch makes 3 loaves: I turned one into a raisin bread with a cinnamon, allspice, and brown sugar topping. The second one into a plain white loaf (my father and step-mother have been enjoying that one with me) and the last one into a cornmeal crusted loaf.

I hope you enjoy eating this as much as I enjoyed baking it and eating it... after all, it's bread that really schmecks!

Neil's Harbour White Bread
1 c. lukewarm water
1 tsp white sugar
2 tbsp yeast granules (or 2 packets)
2 c. lukewarm water
1/2 c. white sugar (I used brown sugar instead)
1 heaping tbsp salt
1/2 c. vegetable oil (I only used 7 tbsp)
about 9 c. of all-purpose flour (I only needed 8 1/2 c.)

Warm up your stand-mixer bowl (warm water in it, then dump out the warm water) and pour the 1 c. lukewarm water, the tsp of sugar and sprinkle the yeast in order for it to dissolve.

Let stand for 10 minutes. I cleaned out my fridge while I waited :0)

Once your yeast has risen to the surface of the water, stir it all until it's well blended (and ensuring that the yeast is all dissolved).

Into the mixture you will stir in:(use your dough hook attachment and the STIR speed) the remaining water, the brown sugar, salt, oil and 3 cups of flour.

Increase the speed to level 2 and add more flour, by the 1/2 cup. The dough will start to gather on the hook and you'll know it's ready when it gets that elastic texture - super glossy as well (the flour will pull away from the sides and all gather together).

I got to about 8 1/2 cups of flour and got the texture that I needed. Turn the dough over onto a floured surface and knead it with your hands for a minute. Put about 1 tbsp of vegetable oil into a glass bowl, greasing the bottom and sides and then placing the ball of dough into the bowl. Make sure that you coat the dough with the oil (move it around). Cover with a damp dish towel and set in a draft-free place for at least an hour (I always put mine in the oven) so that it can double in size.

Once it's doubled in size, punch out the air, take it out of the bowl and divide it into 3 equal sizes. This is when I added about a cup of raisins to my raisin loaf - kneading the raisins into the dough before shaping it.

Shape your bread into your shape of choice - loaf or round, or like me - keep them pretty rustic looking.

Place on a cookie sheet (2 loaves on 1 pan and 1 on the other) and cover with a damp cloth again. Allow to rest another 40 minutes in a warm spot - or cover with a damp cloth and allow to rest overnight in the fridge.

When you are ready to bake, preheat your oven to 400 F. Take out the dough, remove the dish towels and make an egg wash; beaten egg with a bit of water. I made my brown sugar mix - 2 tbsp of brown sugar, 1 tbsp cinnamon, 1.5 tsp allspice mixed together.

Brush the egg wash on all 3 loaves. Cover the raisin loaf with the sugar/spice mixture. I covered another loaf with finely ground yellow cornmeal and left the 3rd loaf plain.

With a sharp knife, cut some "steam vents" into the tops of the bread.

Bake for about 20 - 30 minutes. You'll know that they are ready when the tops are golden brown and if the bread sounds hollow when you knock on the bottom.

Allow to cool. Or be like me, and cut right into it. I heart this bread. I heart food that really schmecks.

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